Sunday, March 4, 2012

Manga Review: Mermaid Line

Mermaid Line's author, Kindaichi Renjuurou, is most well-known for the shounen series Hare + Guu- which I have never read- but has also done shoujo, seinen, and josei. (Her Liar x Liar series- which turned out to be a guilty pleasure when I read the first volume of it- seemed popular when I was in Tokyo this past summer.) Mermaid Line is her contribution to the yuri genre, and it's a darned good one at that.

The three part "Megumi and Aoi" arc focuses on Aoi, a "normal" girl who becomes the lone friend of the eccentric beauty in her class, Megumi. Megumi tells Aoi that she's a mermaid princess (even though she can't swim) and explains why, to her, The Little Mermaid is a homosexual love story. (As A Day Without Me points out, Hans Christian Andersen actually was bisexual and unlucky with men and women.) Aoi puts two and two together and realizes that Megumi is in love with her. Refreshingly, Aoi isn't self-conscious about Megumi's feelings because they're both girls. She just doesn't see how someone as amazing as Megumi could see a "commoner" like her as a prince.

When some bullies in Megumi and Aoi's class ask Aoi if she and Megumi are a lesbian couple, Aoi blurts that she isn't "like that," and instantly realizes her mistake. But too late, the bullies target Megumi and Aoi can't face her out of guilt. Of course, poor Megumi thinks that Aoi's avoiding her for the same reason the bullies are bothering her. Megumi dates a boy to try to make herself "normal" so she can approach Aoi someday as a "normal" girl and they can be friends again. She breaks up with her boyfriend when she realizes that it isn't working.

While looking at a copy of The Little Mermaid in the library, irritated that every version ends with the mermaid princess dissolving into foam after falling in love with the stupid prince, Aoi sees Megumi. She berates the prince in The Little Mermaid for being such an idiot. When Megumi makes it clear that she isn't mad at Aoi, Aoi cries. In the epilogue chapter, "Girl * Girl," Aoi asks Megumi about her sexual orientation while they're eating cake and decides that she's glad they're both girls.

The girl doesn't really get the girl in "Megumi and Aoi," but I still like it. The leads are likeable and feel like realistic high schoolers. And I like how Kindaichi incorporates The Little Mermaid as a motif.

The one part "Yukari and Mayuko" arc is...argh. Yukari and Mayuko work in an office. Mayuko gets dumped by her boss. On a whim, Yukari suggests that she and Mayuko go on pretend-dates. After Mayuko gets a new boyfriend, Yukari realizes that she developed real feelings for her. She thinks that when she's married with kids someday, she can at least have her happy memories from her time with Mayuko. ARGH.

Next, we get a much-needed happy story about adults with the two part "Ayumi and Aika" arc. Ayumi always thought that she would become a beautiful bride after dating a nice man. But one day over dinner, her fiancee Ryuunosuke tells her, "Sorry, Ayumi-chan. But I think it was a mistake that I was born a man." Ryuunosuke breaks up with Ayumi, assuming that Ayumi couldn't possibly want them to stay together.

When Ryuunosuke, now named Aika, goes to Ayumi's apartment to pick up her things, Ayumi finds out that Aika's parents kicked her out and she's been sleeping at the bar where she works. Ayumi offers to let Aika stay at her apartment for the time being. Aika refuses because, contrary to what Ayumi assumed, Aika likes women and is still in love with her. Now that Ayumi knows this, she admits that she still loves Aika.

After Aika tells Ayumi about her plans for transitioning (like taking hormone shots and changing her sex in her family register), Ayumi starts acting distant. Aika becomes afraid that Ayumi doesn't really love her now that she isn't Ryuunosuke anymore. Aika sees a guy harassing Ayumi and tells him to leave her alone. Ayumi tells him off for thinking she's single just because she said that she doesn't have a boyfriend. She hugs Aika and says, "I do have a cute girlfriend." To Aika's relief, everything was one big misunderstanding. ^_^ "Ayumi and Aika" is the strongest arc in this collection.

"Miura-san and Me" is the shortest story in this collection, and by far the most forgettable. Sayoka likes Miura, the girl who sits in front of her in class. Sayoka especially likes Miura's long hair. Miura cuts her hair short and Sayoka still likes her.

For "Megumi and Aoi" and "Ayumi and Aika," this collection is worth reading. And even though I don't like every story, I appreciate the variety that Kindaichi was going for.

Story: Varies really widely. But mostly quite good.
Art: B+
Overall: B+


Steven said...

"But I think it was a mistake that I was born a man."

That! That's the phrase I've been looking for! Thank you.
Well... thanks to Kindaichi-sensei for articulating it, but thanks Katherine for blogging about it which is how I was able to find it... if that makes any sense at all.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Steven- My pleasure! I'm glad you found what you were looking for. ^^

If you're looking for more examples of transsexuality/discussion of transsexual identity in manga (and haven't read the following article), this might be of interest:

Steven said...

@Katherine - Thanks for the link, I'm glad to know that there are at least a few manga that take transsexuality seriously, though since most of them aren't available in English it seems I'll have to see about borrowing my friend's copy of Rosetta Stone (I have been reading Wandering Son but it's been hard because of how relateable it is).'s strange though, I finally have the words I want to be able to say but actually saying them is ... very difficult.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Steven- If you don't object to reading scanlations, you can read the unlicensed series that way.

Wow. I have never wanted to give a commenter a hug more before. I sympathize, having felt similarly after having come out to myself as gay in high school. You've already gotten through the part that's hardest for most queer people (figuring out your identity). And those feelings are normal, since you're not completely used to saying what you want to be able to say. What you're having difficulty with now will become easier with time.

Steven said...

@Katherine - I really could use a hug, though what I need most right now is for my best friend and confidant to get back from basic training so I can have a nice lengthy discussion about all this with them and not have to deal with it alone. But a hug would be really nice.

I've been trying to avoid scanlations as much as I can though if they're not something that has much of a chance of being licensed in the near future I'll probably hunt the scans down.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Steven- Good luck with that discussion! I hope your friend is returning soon.

I understand. For what it's worth, Double House and Ai no Shintairiku are both pretty obscure and out of print, so the chance of their being licensed is (unfortunately) low. And Ichijinsha (the company that publishes the Yuri Hime tankoubon, including Mermaid Line) has been weirdly difficult for English-language companies (can't speak for companies in other languages) to negotiate with for licensing, so (unfortunately again) Mermaid Line also probably won't get licensed. But of course, don't do anything you aren't comfortable with.